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Saturday, 25 June 2011

My mother vs Stephen King

I have a confession: my mother doesn't really  like my books. She thinks I'm a good writer, and she tries to read my stuff - but she hates reading horror, most fantasy leaves her puzzled, and the paranormal holds zero attraction for her.

She really wishes I'd write about, well nice things. You know - boy meets girl, boy wins girl, puppies and kittens and butterflies, and happily ever after. My version would probably go : boy meets girl, girl eats boy, bats and dragons and gargoyles, and  there's something under the bed.

She blames Stephen King for putting these thoughts into my head.

When I was about eight years old, I discovered a copy of Cujo in my grandmother's bookcase. I loved visiting Gran. The house always smelt of lemon and flowers and fresh baking, and she'd keep a box of condensed milk triangles to sneak to us when the folks weren't looking. Gran was love, and hugs, and being called "pet", and oh, my, I miss her. She passed out of this life more than twenty years ago, but I can still feel her hand stroke my hair, and smell her perfume.

In Gran's defense, the book wasn't hers - it belonged to her brother, who was staying over. Gran's taste, like my mom, ran more towards romance and the classics.
Uncle Gus, being the neat house-guest he was, finished the book and popped it in the bookcase to avoid clutter.
Me being me, once the adults were chatting in the kitchen, gravitated towards the bookcase in case there was anything new.

I was quite a way into the book when I came across a word I didn't know. My folks had taught me to look things up in a dictionary, but Gran didn't have one. So I went with plan B : ask an adult.

I wandered into the kitchen, book tucked under my arm. There was a chicken roasting gently in the oven, and my parents, Gran and uncle Gus sitting around the table with cups of tea.

"Mom," I said, when they all turned to look at me. "I need a word?"
My mother smiled in encouragement. "What's the word, dear?"
I opened the book and carefully pronounced it. "Master-bat-ing."

My father sprayed his mouthful of tea across the white painted ceiling and almost choked.

"Janet," my mother said carefully. "What are you reading?"

I held up the book cover so she could see the name.


Sorry, Stephen King. Mom has had issues with you ever since.


Truthfully, although I was a King fan from then on, my love affair the macabre started even earlier. Amongst the classics on my parents bookshelf were Shakespeare (Macbeth is still my favourite) and Edgar Allen Poe.
Although I've pointed that out to her, none of them resulted in an eight year old child with scabby knees wandering into a room and asking what a certain word meant. In front of her own mother. (Mom is a lady; and to her that means certain words and topics are not discussed in public.)

Gran wanted to take the book away from me. Mom pointed out that I was more than halfway through it, and would just find another copy if I wanted to finish it. Even at eight, I was pretty bull-headed when I wanted to do something.

At this point, nobody had told me what the word meant, which I pointed out. Mom turned bright red, and told me to look it up when I got home. (I did. It still made no sense to me. At the age of eight, words like sexual gratification are just words on a page.)


My dad was still making strangled noises when I left the kitchen to finish the book. I think he was trying not to laugh.

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Sometimes I wish I could write a nice, normal romance for my mom. I could probably put the words on paper, but would it be good writing? I doubt it; the odds are it would be flat and stale and have as much emotional impact as a wet sardine. 

Mom read the whole of WolfSong, which surprised the hell out of me - there is a bit of romance in there, but it's more concerned with blood, guts and magic.She even kind of enjoyed it, which surprised me more.

Basement Blues was a different kettle of fish. Three shorts, one of which is outright horror.

Me: "Don't read Dim. You'll hate it."
Mom: "Alright, I'll skip that one."

Three days later:

Mom :"That story was not very nice, Janet."
Me : "I told you not to read it!"
Mom: "You're my daughter. Of course I'm going to read it. I'm just not going to enjoy it." 
Thoughtful pause.
Mom: "You know, you read way too much of that Stephen King stuff when you were young. That's why you write all these weird things."

Once again, sorry Stephen King. But I still love your writing. 

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You can find WolfSong on Amazon, Sony  e-bookstore, Nook and Smashwords. Basement Blues is on Amazon and Smashwords.